Streamline permits for solar

Citizens can promote sustainability by making sure that communities and states have updated their codes and standards for installation of solar panels. States, cities and even planning commissions can choose to encourage or to block homeowners and businesses from adopting cost saving solar power. There are wide differences in waiting time and cost for permits to install photovoltaics. As the cost of solar panels drops, old and costly permitting requirements can double to price of solar installation.The US Department of Energy studied and reported on major gaps in 2010 and helped fund the Solar ABCs, recommending standards and codes for installation. In half a dozen states, solar panels provide cheaper electricity even without subsidies. With current federal tax credits, solar rooftop electricity is competitive with local electric costs in all but a few states.

http://cleantechnica.com/2013/08/21/local-permitting-makes-a-bigger-difference-as-solar-gets-cheap/

http://solarabcs.org/about/index.html

http://www.ilsr.org/why-pay-double-solar-america/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/toddwoody/2012/07/05/cut-the-price-of-solar-in-half-by-cutting-red-tape/

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Solar Competition in a Darwinian Marketplace

Arno Harris, CEO of Recurrent Energy, a developer of large utility solar projects was asked by Russell Gold, energy reporter with the WSJ about bankruptcies among solar energy companies.

This was his response.

“Nobody wants to see that kind of trouble, we think about jobs lost, it’s extremely painful. However, you have to put it in context. This is fundamentally a very exciting transformation This is an industry that in the last 10 years has taken the cost of solar panels from $5 per watt to around $.50 per watt.  As result of this transformation, it has moved solar power from one of the most expensive sources of electricity to one of the second or third least expensive sources of electricity.

Inevitably, a part of that process is going to be the creation of a very Darwinian, challenging environment, in which those who cannot keep up with the cost structure necessary to stay competitive are going to get restructured, fall by the wayside, get reabsorbed.

We have to put this event in that context.  There are numbers of solar manufacturers demonstrating they do have cost structures that work in today’s prices. So that means that this industry can continue to deliver solar electricity at increasingly competitive costs.”

http://on.wsj.com/16NdWOg

Wind, Water, and Sunlight Power a Plan for a Better Economy

‘We can’t afford a green energy economy” is a myth, obvious to people who are paying attention to the hyper expensive effects of a planet-scorching fossil fuel economy.

However, now a group of scientists, headed by Mark Z. Jacobson of Stanford have crunched the numbers and laid out a serious plan for a transition to an affordable energy infrastructure in New York State that uses primarily wind, water and sun. It does not require that we ‘live in trees and eat bugs’. To the contrary, it reduces our energy costs, creates millions of jobs, improves public health and costs less than the side effects of continuing to burn fossil fuels.

The report is Examining the Feasibility of Converting NY State’s All-Purpose Energy Infrastructure to One Using Wind, Water, and Sunlight  2013  Mark Z Jacobson, Robert W Howarth, Mark A Delucchi et al.

This plan calls for electricity to be generated by solar, wind, geothermal and some hydro and wave technology.  It calls for batteries and hydrogen fuel cells in cars, trucks, buses, locomotives and ships. For heating and cooling buildings, it uses ground source heat pumps and heat exchangers.

The investment in new energy infrastructure would increasingly develop low-carbon technologies and by 2020, all new investment would be in these systems, The savings would help us phase out old fuel dependent systems by 2050.

Since renewable electricity is several times more efficient than fossil fuel combustion, losing very little energy to waste heat, the plan reduces electric usage.  

It would stabilize energy prices bringing electric rates down   from $.18/kWh to $.13/kWh, create millions of new jobs, reduce air pollution and improve public health.

The transition would help us deal with what Jacobson describes as “the epic environmental and ecological costs we all pay for our current energy supply,”  a “Fiscal Energy Cliff.” See Interviews and story on the report in Huff post.

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stacy-clark/mark-z-jacobson-renewable-energy_b_2859518.html

http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/NewYorkWWSEnPolicy.pdf

Investing for profit or people

How can investors make money in the time of climate change? That  was the topic of an MSN interview last October with Sarbjit Nahal,  an analyst with Merrill Lynch Global Research.

He recognized that extreme weather is the new economic reality, the “new operating environment” now for corporations and investors. There will be “increasing pressure on food security, water security and energy security, Demand across the three is set to increase by 30 to 50% over the next 20 years.”

Advisors are likely to promote investments in water, water management, water treatment, second generation biofuels from non-food crops, agricultural inputs like equipment, drought resistant seeds, fertilizer and crops.

Is this ghoulish, making money on the scarcity of the basic necessities of life, or is it responsible,- loaning savings to provide for basic needs?

Depends on how it is done.

Corporations can build facilities to desalinate seawater and recycle wastewater and increase supplies responsibly.  Or  they can take control of public water resources, charge people for water that they had used free for generations, and make money for a few shareholders, but leave many people in deeper poverty.  Agriculture can use quantities of fossil fuels and chemicals, squander water supplies, and allow soil loss, or it can reduce plowing and chemicals and preserve water and soil with alternative methods.

As we consider the challenge, providing food and water for 9 billion people in a warming world, it is clear that reducing carbon emissions should be part of every investment decision.

Washington State Clean Energy Leader Governor Inslee

Governor Jay Inslee spoke at the Washington Clean Technology Alliance conference on Clean Energy. Jan 28, 2013:
To hear his remarks go to http://americansecurityproject.org/blog/2013/gov-inslee-speech-at-clean-energy-conference-in-seattle/
The following is a condensed, approximate transcript of what he said.
“This is the season. Clean energy technologies are becoming mature. Last Saturday I went to the launch of world’s largest long liner fishing ship; it is 20% more efficient than other ships like it. It is made by welders, machinists, and carpenters, and it is in the water today. Everywhere I look in Washington State, there is work in green technology. Dave Curry in Spokane has a new way to store energy in batteries. In Marysville they are making new tougher solar panels. We have a maturation of these innovations. This is a time to speak up about the successes.
A superstorm targeted the media center of the world. It demands attention. There have been terrible fires in the Cascades, and oyster growers have had to move part of their operations to Hawaii. The public is ready, poised and ready.
My election is a mandate, and now we have a partner in Washington DC.
The military is committed to move ahead. They are developing net zero training bases. A jet flew over sound barrier on biofuel; they call it the green hornet.
We do not have any other choice. The Chinese are not waiting for us. Germans and Portuguese are not waiting for us. This is an opportunity, not an entitlement. Time demands that we move.
We have a period of opportunity. We are going to push the envelope, here in Washington. We did that in commercial aircrafts and we led the world. We did it in software and we led the world. Now is the time to lead the way in clean energy.
Policy is important in pushing the envelope. Here is what we are going to do in the State of WA.
First, incentivize small but meaningful ways to generate capital with tradable R& D tax credits which can be traded to help people start their own business even before get revenue. A couple of other states, including New Jersey, have tried this and it has succeeded.
Businesses need to get started; waiting for permits is not good. Time is money, we need to streamline the permit system.
We have 600 students waiting to get into engineering school. We need their skills. So we will build an educational system that prepares people to work in high tech so when need computational scientists, we can get them. We need to build an outstanding educational system, and invest more in public research institutions.
Products need to move, so we need to increase freight mobility and at the same time reduce carbon pollution throughout the system in all modalities. We will expand incentives for renewable energy, and build a transportation system designed to reduce carbon intensity across Washington State.
I want everyone here to help me. It is time.”

Green Economy can Reduce Long Term Health Care Costs

We can reduce worldwide health care costs by transitioning to low carbon energy that does not overheat the planet, according to a new study.

Climate related health issues include illness from diarrheal disease estimated to kill 2.5 million people per year now, and half again that many by 2030. The warming   climate is also expected to raise death rates from extreme heat by 20%,  from malaria by 15%, and from meningitis by 25%. Agricultural and water losses are expected to raise deaths from hunger by  42% by 2030.

Adding climate related losses to industry, natural resources and habitat to these health costs is expected depress the world gross domestic product by 3.2% per year by 2030 according to the Climate Vulnerability Monitor.  

However, with an investment of  0.5% of GDP, one sixth the expected losses from global warming,  in low carbon policies like clean energy, energy efficiency, and forest conservation, we could stabilize the climate, strengthen our economy and reduce human suffering.

This study is chaired by the founder of the Club of Madrid, and advised by  international expertise in economics, resource and risk management, science and energy.   

Carbon Fee and Dividend to Spur Innovation and Jobs

Bill McKibben’s Letter 12/13/2012, excerpts:   “We need a simple honest flat across-the- board fee on the carbon content of fossil fuels, collected from fossil fuel companies at the domestic mine or port of entry, the fee gradually rising over time, the funds distributed 100 percent to the public, equal amounts to all legal residents, not one dime to the government, no enlargement of government. Such a “fee-and-dividend” system would cause fossil fuel CO2 emissions to rapidly decline, most coal and unconventional fossil fuels would be left in the ground. For example, economic modeling for the U.S. shows that a $10/tonCO2 fee, rising $10 each year, would reduce emissions 30 percent after a decade,…

“We have tremendous potential for innovation that will be spurred once there is a rising carbon price. New products, more jobs. As the carbon price rises, tipping points will be reached where low-carbon or no-carbon alternatives phase in rapidly, leaving fossil fuels in the ground….

“We need building standards, we should not produce electronic goods that draw energy even when not in use, etc. Such things will be easier to achieve, and partly self-enforced, by an underlying steadily rising carbon price….

“Only a few nations need agree on a carbon fee. They will place a border duty on products from countries that do not have an equivalent carbon fee. …This approach provides a tremendous incentive for other nations to adopt a similar domestic carbon fee, so they can collect it themselves rather than lose it as a border duty…”

http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2012/20121213_StormsOfOpa.pdf

Citizens Climate Lobby helps citizens lobby for national carbon fee and dividend legislation because it “will put us on the path of a sustainable climate by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning us to a clean energy economy.” Check out their introductory call every Wednesday.

http://www.citizensclimatelobby.org/node/444